WASHINGTON — Americans cut their spending at retail businesses for a third straight month, as a weak job market has made consumers more cautious.
Retail sales fell 0.5 percent in June from May, the Commerce Department said Monday. Consumers spent less on autos, furniture, appliances, on building and garden supplies and at department stores.
The drop in sales followed declines in the previous two months. Retail sales haven't fallen for three straight months since the fall of 2008, at the height of the financial crisis.
Some of the weakness in recent months reflects falling gas prices. But even excluding sales at gas stations, retail spending fell 0.3 percent in June from May.
Consumers are growing less confident in the economy and have pulled back sharply on spending this spring. Consumer spending drives 70 percent of economic activity.
The economy is expanding too slowly to lower the unemployment rate, which stayed at 8.2 percent in June.
Employers have created an average of just 75,000 jobs a month in the April-June quarter — a third of the monthly job growth during the previous three months. And wages and salaries have barely increased, keeping budgets tight for those Americans who have jobs.
Perhaps the only good news is that gas prices have come down nearly 50 cents a gallon since peaking at a national average near $4 in April. Still, that hasn't been enough to get Americans shopping.
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Early reports from the nation's largest retail chains pointed to a weaker month of spending in June.
Costco Wholesale Corp. reported sales for June fell below expectations as did Target Corp. and Macy's Inc. Limited Brands, however, was one bright spot, reporting sales in June that surpassed predictions.
The nation's auto dealers are reporter better sales. Sales of new vehicles from mini cars to monster pickups soared in June. Automakers reporting selling nearly 1.3 million cars and trucks last month, up 22 percent from the same month a year ago.